Seeing the light

Dentistry, superstars and tea service – certainly not three things you would associate with the accident repair industry but, then again, Halo is not your average repair facility. Having been the talk of the industry for some months, it was high time bodyshop magazine revisited the business to find out more. Mark Hadaway reports.

It was back in 2013 that bodyshop magazine first covered Halo in a feature, which focused on the opening of its first bespoke site in Westbury, Wiltshire. Since that time it is fair to say that Halo, and its partnership with Ageas, has caused quite a stir within the industry and judging by my visit to its newly opened Innovation Centre at the premises in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, it’s for good reason – it is different, very different.

The first thing to note about Halo is that it is not a ‘traditional’ accident repair centre, nor is it trying to be one; Halo has a unique approach on how it runs its business. Bradley Hanson, director of innovation, forms one half of the business partnership with his wife Ros Hanson, director of customer experience.

So what are they doing so different? Bradley explained, ‘We have taken the end-to-end process of an accident repair centre and broken it down into its component parts, before building it back up again into a simple, process and people driven machine’.

‘It’s not about the repair, that is a given, it’s now more about the exceptional service package we can provide our customers consistently,’ explained Ros. ‘People are, and will continue to be at the very heart of our business. We empower our team and provide them with the necessary skills and training, to ensure each customer receives an extraordinary experience.’

Innovation

The Halo Innovation Centre, which is a blueprint for the Halo concept and is used to retrain existing superstars and train the next generation, occupies part of the footprint of what once was a ‘traditional’ accident repair centre operating as PMC.  Established for over 40 years, PMC has been the proving ground and ideas laboratory for the new Halo concepts which are currently implemented in six independent, standalone locations across the UK.

The holistic view of the repair business is shaped by both Bradley and Ros, who entered into the Halo business from very different backgrounds. Ros has been in the business since her years as a Saturday, part-time employee and states she sees the industry from a different perspective – a fact which has proved a major asset to Halo’s business model of providing a warm, welcoming customer focused environment.

In contrast, Bradley has a background in the manufacturing world, working for a business supplying Marks & Spencer, during a period when it was transitioning from traditional manufacturing processes to production lines. He entered the accident repair sector in 1998 which provided the catalyst for change at PMC.

The business has also utilised the skills of many other industry experts to get to where it is today, none more so than Rob Smale and the team at Ageas. ‘Working closely with Ageas has proved to be highly beneficial and has allowed us to exchange ideas to further improve our business model. Likewise, working with Eddie Longworth, bringing with him his great knowledge and expertise of the claims sector has proved invaluable’ said Bradley.

Customers

The customer-centric concept flows throughout the business. The key to the Halo business is finding out what the customer ‘really’ wants when their vehicle is in for repair.

Bradley explained, ‘We make a specific point of finding out what is important to each and every one of our customers,’ he continued that seldom is it anything to do with the actual repair. ‘We’ve had instances of customers requesting that we ensure their ‘pet money spider’ is kept safe in the vehicle, whilst we undertake repairs and one of the less unusual is the common request for the removal of dog hair from the back seat. Each and every request becomes the driver of the service we provide – we have confidence that a quality repair will happen regardless’. Psychology is clearly one of the many holistic strands that Halo incorporates into its business culture.

With such a focus on the customer, you would be forgiven for assuming this might impact on the actual repair process but the reality is quite the opposite. The entire concept is centred on a 100% repair solution coupled with a 24-48 hour key-to-key process and all of Halo’s centres assume the top six slots on the Ageas performance table for this. This clearly demonstrating that the business model created by Halo works. Of course, the benefits of a quality service, combined with speed of turnaround are, in many cases, the solution insurers seek in order to help contain claims costs and improve the customer experience.

Empowerment

The empowerment of Halo personnel begins during the recruitment phase, where according to Bradley people very early on identify themselves as either aligned with the Halo values or otherwise. ‘For us, it is all about having a positive attitude. Our operational practices, which are based on pulling work through the centre rather than the traditional push method, requires communication, co-operation and strong team work. It is these traits, combined with a non-bonus reward environment which ensures the business gives everyone ownership. We are creating ‘entrepreneurs’ who help drive the business forward.’

Each bespoke Halo site is serviced by a delight manager (administrator), superstars (technicians) and champions (drivers) – a multi-skilled team that see the 18 stage repair process through from end to end. It is a finely honed process and one which is clearly indicated every step of the way – from a vehicle entering the premises, to it being loaded onto the wheel pods, undergoing the necessary repair procedures, and being returned to the customer upon completion.

Theme

With two years now gone by for the Halo business in its current format, expansion is a continuous theme with many more sites to be rolled out in the coming years.

Long-term, both Bradley and Ros acknowledge that Halo is just the beginning for the transformation of the sector. Ros said, ‘We know we can produce the quality of repair work, so our concentrations are fixed on maintaining the core values of the business whilst continuing to dedicate further resources into innovating for the future. Complacency is not something that we allow and we will continue to innovate with our teams, to produce the most extraordinary customer repair experience possible.’

Bradley remarked, ‘Halo has achieved the success it has, through the empowerment of its staff, all of whom we are immensely proud of and would like to take this opportunity to tell them all they are extraordinary.’

And as for the dentistry, superstars and tea service… well, that’s all just part of the Halo way.